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36 thoughts on “Piper’s Caution to the Young, Restless, and Reformed Crowd”

  1. Mike Hall says:

    I appreciate Pastor John’s warning and wisdom. It’s very easy to worship the system and not even realize it. John Owen also put it into context when he said, “…when we have communion with God in the doctrine we contend for, then shall we be garrisoned by the grace of God against all the assaults of men.” That communion is essential.

  2. Ted Bigelow says:

    A prophetic word… “take it or leave it?” And our dear brother John is cautious about it?

    Don’t be cautious about it!! Anytime anybody makes theology more important than God is a bad time. Its idolatry!

    This comes to us with a significant “WOW” factor. Sam Crabtree’s message comes from prophecy. Heady stuff, for the Restless. Thought provoking stuff for the Reformed.

    But don’t worry. We’re all safe. you can “take it or leave it.”

    But can we really?

    In 1 Corinthians 12:28 Paul, by inspiration, claims prophecy is above teaching. It is more important to the church. We should pay more attention to prophecy than teaching.

    Yet consider. A Bible teacher who says, “hey, here’s my teaching, take it or leave it” isn’t true to Scripture. Scripture’s message is never “take it or leave it.” It’s always a self-attesting message from God that demands we hear it with anticipatory hearts and a willing mind. When Scripture is taught, it must never be taught with a “take it or leave it” mentality.

    How much more then must that be the case with genuine prophecy? Since Paul by inspiration claims it is more authoritative than teaching, it must never be relegated to a “take it or leave it” status.

    Either the message from Sam was prophecy, in which case we MUST hear it with great reverence. Or, it was not, in which case we may take it or leave it.

    So I guess when it comes right down to it, beloved leaders like John Piper intuitively know it isn’t prophecy. It’s really just “take it or leave it,” isn’t it?

    1. henrybish says:

      A prophetic word… “take it or leave it?” And our dear brother John is cautious about it?

      1Cor14:29
      1Thess5:20-21

      It’s always a self-attesting message from God

      Really? To every single person that hears it? Or only to those whom it is specially intended for?

    2. casey says:

      Ted, I think you misunderstood Piper. What I heard was that you could take or leave whether or not this message was a divinely revealed special revelation God specificlaly gave to one person or not…but either way the message was in itself true and should be plain without a special prophetic word.

      Piper’s problem with the possible prophetic word is that it is difficult to substantiate. Not the message itself in this case, but the special event by which the message came.

      1. Ted Bigelow says:

        Hi Casey,

        Yes, I think I understand Piper’s point as you describe it.

        But it’s the danger of that point I’m exposing.

        In no way do I disagree with Sam Crabtree’s, or John Piper’s point about placing something good before God, such as one’s carefully studied theology. They are right!

        But to even suggest that the Almighty, who in great wisdom sent His Only Son as clear revelation (John 1:18), also gives some forms of revelation that can be ignored as revelation (take it or leave it) is deeply problematic.

        Fact of the matter is, those who ignore God’s revelation ignore Him.

        There are just so many problems with the “take it or leave it” viewpoint of prophecy.

        First, it is entirely unbiblical. If God speaks, listen. You never take it or leave it.

        Nor do you ever minimize prophecy. Doing so, that is, “take it or leave it” – is “despising prophecy.” It despises prophecy’s source, and its authority, as ranked in 1 Corinthians 12:28).

        This idea that there are types of prophecy that can be ignored if you want to because it doesn’t “click” with you is so very post-modern, but also sinful.

        It places God’s speaking under the authority of each person to like it or not.

        It confuses people. Is this from God? Or not? Well, John Piper says so. But others disagree. But when we talk prophesy, we should be talking about something that is certain (2 Peter 1:20-21).

        Those, like our beloved brother John, who want to claim prophesy still exists, escape the consequences of making that claim by saying “take it or leave it.”

        But that is so different than what we see in the Bible. Go through the prophecies made in Acts – especially Agabus. They are all delivered with a “thus saith the Lord” pronouncement about them. Never a “take it or leave it” caution.

        1. Ted:

          To test prophecies are not problematic, it’s biblical. To accept them without qualification, now that’s problematic.

          Yes, prophecies are based upon a “revelation” (apo-kaluptw)(1 Cor. 14.30), but revelations given by God today are done so under the authority of Scripture, not on par or above it. These revelations are not infallible, yet fallible (i.e. liable to error) and lead to prophetic messages of the same quality.

          If anything, a prophetic message has authority comparable to counsel given by others. This is why every prophetic message – as well as advice we receive and messages we hear preached – must be filtered through the general and particular teachings of the Bible (1 Thess. 5.19-22). For everything that we need to know about salvation, faith, and life is found in the Scriptures.

          Being inspired by God (2 Samuel 23.2; Matthew 15.6; Romans 3.2; 2 Timothy 3.16-17; 1 Peter 1.23; and 2 Peter 1.20-21) the Bible serves as the infallible rule in all matters pertaining to life and faith. Every revelation, prophecy, hunch, feeling, impression, and dream is to bow to the authority of God as expressed in the Scriptures. This means that everything we believe to be a revelation or the leading of God is to be tested as to whether or not it conforms to the actual message of the Bible.

          It is by looking to the general (i.e. Overall teaching of the Bible) and particular (i.e. Individual passages, paragraphs, chapters, etc…) that we find all that we need for salvation, faith, and life.

          Even though revelations are imparted by God and are brought about by intuitive means, such as hunches and feelings, we are given no Scriptural or practical reason why we should attribute divine inerrancy or any other special status. Just as information received through a logical process, such as studying, is authoritative insofar as it is conformed to Scriptures, so too are revelations purportedly received from God.

          In the end, it is more about the content of a message than the means by which it is received.

          If you would like additional information, you can see what I wrote here:

          http://reformedandreforming.org/2009/09/27/the-gift-a-prophecy-today-the-complete-series/

          Cheers, Jesse

          1. Ted Bigelow says:

            Hi Jesse,

            I would enjoy interacting with you. Thanks for the link – I look forward to reading what you’ve written.

            As for just a quick response – yes, prophecies must be tested, and your verses cited teach exactly that.

            What I was reacting to in my first post was John Piper’s approach to a Sam Crabtree’s “prophecy” (concerning the priority of theology and God), which John said one could either “take it or leave it.” That is, you can take it as a prophecy, or not.

            I hear that and it sounds to me like he is not testing it, but minimizing it. To be tested, a prophecy requires 2 or 3 with that gift to unanimously agree that it is a prophecy.

            John’s unsure if it is, becasue he said we can “take it or leave it” as such.

    3. Kenneth says:

      Pretty sure he didn’t mean “take it or leave it” to the idea of message that he taught. He was simply being cautious of someone coming up and claiming to have a prophetic word. We are supposed to “take it or leave it”…take it, if it coheres with scripture…and leave it, if it doesn’t.

      you can’t just take every “prophetic word” that people give you…you test it…then take it, or leave it.

  3. Ted Bigelow says:

    Hi Henry.

    Yes, Scripture is always self-attesting to its divine Authorship (2 Peter 1:20-21). Even the unbeliever hears the voice of God in Scripture, but rejects i.

    This is also true in nature. The unbeliever hears and sees God through creation, but suppresses it all in unrighteousness (Romans 1:18-21).

    So to answer your questions, yes, prophecy is always a self attesting message from God to all. How each receives is always a matter of obedience or disobedience.

    It is never, ever, a matter of personal preference, which is the “take it or leave it” position.

    1. henrybish says:

      Ted, the scriptures you cited do not establish your claim that:

      prophecy is always a self attesting message from God to all

      2Pet1:20-21 says nothing about self-attestation to the hearers and Rom1:18-21 says nothing about prophecy.

      Plus, your claim seems unreasonable – why would God want to grant ‘intuitive’ attestation to anyone beyond those (few?) whom He specially intends the message to be for? And maybe ‘intuitive’ attestation is not necessary in this case – recognition of the plain wisdom in the words is sufficient to keep us from folly. (It’s not like a famine is being predicted over Judea that we need to prepare for).

      1. henrybish says:

        also, where do

        1Cor14:29
        1Thess5:20-21

        fit into your theology?

        1. Ted Bigelow says:

          Hi Henry,

          I didn’t feel I owed you an explanation on those verses since you didn’t deal with my prior post’s major point on the ranking of prophecy and teaching and 1 Corinthians 12:28.

          Instead, you pulled out a minor point and responded to that. That’s fine, I responded to that minor point. As I explained to you, I was writing about Scripture being self-attesting. You chose to rewrite it to make it as if I was writing about modern prophecy being self-attesting. Again, that’s OK if you want to do that, but it didn’t really represent my point. I allowed it, because biblical prophecy and Scripture are so very close.

          But you have not reasoned yet with the points I raised in my prior post. Perhaps if you do that, I will respond to your later post.

          Blessings!

          1. henrybish says:

            Blessings!

            Thankyou, I really feel like you meant it!

            I did not respond to your use of 1Cor12:28 because I do not see how your use of it undercuts my argument. Ditto with the other points I did not respond to.

            Again, the two verses you cited do not even establish that Scripture is self-attesting to all people every time it is heard, so even if you say prophecy is equivalent to Scripture (which is very debatable) it does not establish your claim.

            And even if extra-biblical prophecy (like Philips 4 daughters) is self-attesting in the same way Scripture is self-attesting then I have no qualms. I don’t get an ‘intuitive’ feeling every time I read a verse of Scripture, like you seem to be expecting with prophecy.

            1. Ted Bigelow says:

              Hi Henry,

              When I say self-attesting, I am using the words to mean “God-attesting.” He testifies to His word, for it was spoken by His Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21). He can do no other, for it is not the word of men, but ever has its origin and authority in God Himself.

              Hope this helps. Blessings!

  4. steve hays says:

    Ted Bigelow July 14, 2010 at 7:44 am

    “Anytime anybody makes theology more important than God is a bad time. Its idolatry!”

    That’s a facile and false dichotomy. It’s not as if we have our theology, and then we have what we really believe about God. For better or worse, we worship God according to our conception of God. So you can’t draw a neat-and-tidy distinction between “God” and “theology,” as if our devotion to God is separable from our beliefs about God.

    1. Ted Bigelow says:

      Hi Steve,

      Consider Romans 10:2:

      For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge.

      It is still prevalent today among many. Even genuinely regenerated persons can fall into this trap. For God isn’t defined by our theology. He defines Himself. So if i have an idolatrous theology about God, I am not worshiping the true God, but a figment of my imagination. I am also committing idolatry.

      Unless I’m mistaken, this was the substance of Sam Crabtree’s “prophecy.”

  5. I am always realigned when I hear John speak on humility. I do not pretend to be a theologian, but I know the pride I do display when I think that my interpretation of the inerrant word is authoritative. This is a great warning. We would do good to heed it by seking the humility of Christ as he drives us always toward that. Let’s seek God and love the God we study and never think that we have it all figured out because we will never have it all figured out until we see Him face to face (we will know as we are fully known)! God bless you all as you seek Him

  6. I would like to humbly make two comments. First, while I understand a discussion about prophecy to be important, it is not the main thrust of what Piper is saying and has very little to do with the advice he’s giving. I think to miss his main point here for a discussion about a secondary theological issue would be tragic.

    Secondly, I would like to respectfully disagree with Mr. Hays. Piper goes to great lengths to explain exactly what he means here. Yes, theology is of the utmost importance, but only as it actually draws us to the beauty and treasure of our wonderful God. Unfortunately, I have known too many people who were excited about God’s sovereignty, but worried about their daily life; aware of the doctrines of grace, but not grace-filled themselves; knowledgable of the Gospel, but neither reliant on it nor willing to make it known to others. They truly made theology their god. Brothers, we cannot allow this to happen, just as we would not want emotion to be anyone’s god. Only God is God and theology is a means of knowing God rightly so that we may worship Him in spirit and truth, but it can never be an end in itself.

  7. steve hays says:

    Ted Bigelow July 14, 2010 at 11:28 am

    “Consider Romans 10:2: ‘For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge.”

    That’s not a contrast between God and theology. Rather, that’s a contrast between true and false theological conceptions.

    “It is still prevalent today among many. Even genuinely regenerated persons can fall into this trap. For God isn’t defined by our theology. He defines Himself. So if i have an idolatrous theology about God, I am not worshiping the true God, but a figment of my imagination. I am also committing idolatry.”

    Your dichotomy is self-refuting nonsense. When you use the word “God” three times (as you just did), you mean something by that word. And what you mean is defined by your (=Ted Bigelow’s) theology. Ted Bigelow has an idea of what he means by “God” when he uses “God” in a sentence to distinguish “God” from “theology.” And what he means by that word is supplied by his theology. So you couldn’t set up that invidious contrast in the first place unless you had a definition of God in mind. And where does that come from, Tim? From your theological belief-system (whatever that may be).

    Perhaps what you’re laboring to say, in your inchoate way, is that our theology may not correspond to what God is really like. Indeed.

    But you, Tim, can’t step outside of your theological outlook, assume a God’s-eye viewpoint, then reprove others for “idolatry” as if you know something they don’t. So you can’t play both sides of the fence on this issue. For your theology will also define “idolatry.”

    1. Ted Bigelow says:

      Hi Steve,

      God sent His Son down from heaven to give us an accurate understanding of Himself (John 1:18). Jesus said, “he who has seen me has seen the Father.” I’ve been graced to see Christ with the sure eyes of faith.

      The reason why is becasue God sent His Spirit into my heart, enabling me to believe the gospel. And continuing to today, the Spirit Himself makes me able to understand Scripture spiritually (1 Corinthians 2:14) and see the Father’s Son as He is.

      Therefore, when I say God, I mean Trinity. Three persons all self-existent, eternal, and omnipotent. Yet distinct as well. The Son is not the Father, nor is the Father the Son. Any other is idolatry.

      This is who God has revealed Himself to be, because Scripture declares Him to be so. As a result, I do indeed have a “God’s-eye viewpoint” as you quite aptly describe it. But I don’t step away from the theological outlook of Scripture to gain that view. Instead, it is formed in conscious dependence on Scripture.

      Since Scripture stands outside and apart from us, and is indeed the word of God Himself, it authoritatively defines what is true and false. So when Paul criticizes the Jews for having a zeal for God in Romans 10:2, but not according to knowledge, it is indeed a contrast between theologies, not just conceptions of theologies.

      Paul’s theology was not merely a true conception of theology. It had its origin in God, not himself. It was accurate, and based on the fact that he knew God, and not merely a conception of God (Gal. 4:9, Eph. 1:17), he called men to repent and beleive in the gospel.

      Nor is the gospel an expression of his accurate theological conception. It is the summons of the Triune God to believe.

      Because I rely on God’s own revelation of Himself, I have not given a “dichotomy that is self-refuting nonsense.” It is not merely one person’s thinking as opposed to another’s. It rests on God’s revelation of Himself. Therefore, I humbly accept His definition of idolatry.

      What is idolatrous to you?

  8. taco says:

    Piper is simply stating that God is the ultimate aim of everything including theology, that we should strive to keep everything in its proper place. It is wise to listen to a word of caution from an elder believer. I am reminded of a question from Kevin DeYoung “Can we be the young generation that loves and respects and looks up to the older generation?”

  9. steve hays says:

    Ted Bigelow July 14, 2010 at 2:52 pm

    “Nor is the gospel an expression of his accurate theological conception. It is the summons of the Triune God to believe.”

    And is your statement that it’s “the summons of the Triune God to believe” a statement of your theology or not?

    “Because I rely on God’s own revelation of Himself, I have not given a “dichotomy that is self-refuting nonsense.” It is not merely one person’s thinking as opposed to another’s. It rests on God’s revelation of Himself. ”

    It rests on your interpretation of God’s self-revelation.

    “Therefore, I humbly accept His definition of idolatry.”

    You accept your interpretation of his definition of idolatry. Therefore, you’re not taking a single step outside of your theology.

    1. Ted Bigelow says:

      Hi Steve,

      You imply I only speak from myself, but you are wrong. I speak as one regenerated by the Holy Spirit.

      You only seek to throw me back onto myself. But I already find in myself nothing good. Christ in me, and He is the hope of glory. He never does to me what you are trying to do – that is, throwing me to myself. As I expressed in my last post to you, and what you amazingly neglected to interact with in your latest post, is my claim to a saving relationship with God.

      By your words that seek to distance my faith in God, and by your neglect of what I wrote about a saving relationship with Christ, shall I conclude you do not know the saving grace of Jesus Christ?

      In 1 John 5:13, it is written “these things I have written that you may know that you have eternal life.”

      That knowledge is not a theology, nor a theological perspective. It flows out of a new life in which God has regenerated a man. It is not a knowledge gained by books, but imparted by the Spirit.

      Christ is my Shepherd, and the One who forms my theology from His word. You seek to move me away from depending on Him to claiming I speak a theology that is only from myself. But you are wrong, devilishly wrong. And I know where you are coming from.

      For God has spoken, and what He speaks is true. It is to be received as reliable and certain.

      I noticed you did not respond to my question – “what is idolatrous to you?”

      Will you now?

      1. bossmanham says:

        Ted, I must say I agree with Steve Hays here. You yourself have your own theology. What you believe about God is your theology. Everyone has a theology. Some are more interested in developing a robust understanding of God, and therefore try to acquire more knowledge. If you make that more important than your relationship, then there may be an issue, but I think if you use the Bible as your guide and stay within its boundaries, studying theology can grow your relationship with Christ. Staying ignorant and on the baby’s milk, as Paul put it, certainly doesn’t help anyone.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Wow, it is crazy how much you guys like to argue over the smallest minutia. I think this is exactly the type of thing Piper is cautioning against. I hope he really takes this message to heart

  11. steve hays says:

    Ted Bigelow July 14, 2010 at 5:10 pm

    “You imply I only speak from myself, but you are wrong. I speak as one regenerated by the Holy Spirit.”

    Which every born-again Christian can say, whether Arminian, Anglican, Wesleyan, Anabaptist, Presbyterian, Pentecostal, Lutheran, Baptist, &c. So that’s hardly the deal-breaker.

    “As I expressed in my last post to you, and what you amazingly neglected to interact with in your latest post, is my claim to a saving relationship with God.”

    Which is irrelevant to the question at hand. And, as far as that goes, it’s possible for an unbeliever to have a more accurate grasp of Bible teaching than a believer.

    “That knowledge is not a theology, nor a theological perspective. It flows out of a new life in which God has regenerated a man. It is not a knowledge gained by books, but imparted by the Spirit.”

    Now your shifting ground from your original claim about Biblical revelation to a claim about spiritual illumination.

    “But you are wrong, devilishly wrong. And I know where you are coming from.”

    According to your crystal ball?

    “For God has spoken, and what He speaks is true. It is to be received as reliable and certain.”

    Irrelevant to the issue at hand. The question is what it means to you. Therefore, you can’t drive a wedge between your theology and what God is “really” like, as if there’s what you believe, and then there’s your knowledge of God, which is somehow independent of your theology. For your theology is the expression of what you believe God is really like.

  12. Ted Bigelow says:

    Hi Steve,

    Strange postings.

    The original point you found so distasteful was that someone who makes their theology more important than God is practicing idolatry.

    If you watch the clip at the top of the post, that is John Piper’s point, and it is the content of the “prophecy” he heard from Sam Crabtree.

    So when you argue with me on that point, you aren’t just arguing with me, but John Piper, and the very reason Justin put the item on his blog in the first place.

    And its still a valid point. Listen to John Piper explain it.

    You write: “Irrelevant to the issue at hand”

    You have not understood the post history, having misunderstood the fact that I was defending John Piper’s point.

    The issue at hand is that you are unwilling to engage in courteous blog behavior.

    You refuse to answer questions posed to you. Instead, your behavior is simply to isolate comments that you don’t like, make a carping comment, then cut and run.

    Thus you refuse to engage in discussion.

    You simply are hiding Steve. Why?

  13. steve hays says:

    Ted Bigelow July 14, 2010 at 8:16 pm

    “The original point you found so distasteful was that someone who makes their theology more important than God is practicing idolatry.”

    No, I commented on your statement. You try to separate theology from God. You then act as if you have a direct hotline to God. But even if you did, that would be your theology.

    “The issue at hand is that you are unwilling to engage in courteous blog behavior.”

    You’re the one who’s resorted to ad hominem attacks, not me.

  14. B says:

    Steve and Ted, I hope your glorified bodies are conjoined to one another.

    1. Ted Bigelow says:

      HA! I would like that with my wife, but my theology prevents it!

  15. Mike says:

    “Take it or leave it” is an expression of opportunity in the same way as “He who has ears let him hear” John is humbly asking the listener to evaluate what he is saying and make use of it accordingly.

  16. Bobby Sparks says:

    I receive that as a prophetic word. Amen.

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Justin Taylor is executive vice president of book publishing and book publisher for Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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